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Dear Diary…

Penning down or sketching out your feelings can be a great way of dealing with stress and emotional upheavals, even more so during the anxious times of coronavirus. NT BUZZ speaks to a few avid journal keepers

The world can be a difficult place. And amidst the chaos all around, a lot of times, the stresses of everyday life or just navigating through various relationships, can sometimes get overwhelming.
Often, talking it out with a loved one can be effective. But its not always possible to talk to someone. Sometimes, the person you need may not be around when you are feeling low, or you may not be fortunate to share a close enough relationship with a person to be comfortable in unburdening yourself. Or sometimes, you may struggle to put words to what you are feeling.
It is here, that journaling comes in. Be it just jotting down how your day went, scribbling random thoughts and ideas, or using art to express what words cannot, journaling has been proven to be especially therapeutic in making sense of the world. And many who engage in this exercise attest to this.
“I have been writing in a journal since my school days. It gives me clarity, because a lot of things occur to me only as I am writing and pondering about my day – how I felt and why I felt that way. I feel like I’m tuning in to my feelings,” says Assolna-based Valencia Aguiar Almeida who works in a pharmaceutical company. Almeida reveals that she began journaling after reading about Anne Frank and her diary, and although she did stop midway, she restarted the exercise again two years ago after she realised how much of a difference it made to her day. “Also, when I read an old journal, it made me feel like I’ve grown so much and come a long way,” she says, adding that she also loves using online journal prompts. And while writing in a diary is a place to put down your most private thoughts, that you may not want anyone to know about, Almeida states that sometimes she does share some pages of it with close friends. “I share these if I feel that it will help them deal with what they are currently feeling,” she says, while recommending that everyone give it a try. “It’s really an amazing habit. Even if it’s just one page at the end of the day. I look forward to that time now, me and my journal before bedtime.”
Dharma Lingukar too has been maintaining a diary since his college days. “I started it back in my first year. There were a lot of things going on and I wanted clarity,” says the Mapusa-based youngster who is presently working as a purchase executive. “I read somewhere that when you think, the problem seems way too big in your head than it actually is. But, when you write it down, you can deal with it the way it is. And journaling has helped me to clear my clutter,” he says.
For college student Wesley D’Souza from Tuem, it has an added benefit, in that it helps him write poetry. “I record the things that happen around me, from small details to what the world is going through at that point. It is there that most of my poems find their genesis,” he says, adding that he too was inspired by ‘The Diary of a Yound Girl’ by Anne Frank. “We read an excerpt in class 10 as part of our English class, and I went on to read the whole diary. I thought, much like she did, that yes: ‘paper has more patience than people’,” he says, adding that the journaling process helps clear his head if there is a lot happening around him. “When I write, I put down things as they are. Then I see what I can do about that or how I would want things to be. And if things don’t go the way I want, I always write about it, because it’s comforting,” he says.
Media person Alisha Fernandes from Mapusa meanwhile started a gratitude journal as a new year resolution this year. “I often feel that we tend to ask a lot without counting the number of things that we already have and the things we should be grateful for. So, this year, I took that step. My gratitude journal includes the top five things that I am grateful for in a day,” she says.
Along with this, she says, she believes in the power of affirmations and jots these down too. “The whole exercise has become a part of my routine now. It brings a smile on my face on days when I am down. It helps me understand that life is tough but at the same time you have enough things to look at, which will help you see the brighter side of life and give you a positive outlook,” she says.
Many others, choose the medium of art, to get in touch with themselves. Artist Rini Alphonsa Joseph has been art journaling for three years now, documenting her days through little drawings and illustrations. And the process has been deeply beneficial for her. “I used to be suicidal and struggled immensely with depression. While I had learned about art journaling in art school, I started effectively practicing it to cope with my mental health three years ago. Documenting my life in this way gave me a sort of sense of control over my life. It also allowed me to get out of my own head,” she says.
For Vembly Colaco, it has taught her how to express herself better. “There used to be a gap between what I expressed and what I wanted to express. And that gap which always left a void in my heart is filled when I paint those unexpressed emotions,” says the assistant professor who has been art journaling since a young age. “It has helped me to be more expressive with my thoughts and it’s really very therapeutic,” she says.
Art journaling can also of course improve one’s art skills as Alisha Chari discovered. “I like Goan architecture and Panaji being my favorite city, I used to go there and sketch,” she says. Also, aware that this architecture won’t last forever, this sketching exercise is also a means of capturing it all for posterity. “At the same time, each painting also sees an expression of my emotions too,” she says. To make things interesting during the lockdown she also began doing sketches of lockdown scenes. “I started collecting pictures from people of any scenes with their family and sketching these digitally and then putting these up on social media,” she says.
Art journaling was something that happened quite natural for artist Pearl D’Souza. “I drew all the time. In my textbooks, at the back of my school books, and on loose papers around the house. Once I got to college, I ended up taking a course that asked us to maintain a journal for it. That is when I saw value in having all my thoughts in one place,” she says, adding that she typically maintains one or two journals at a time with a mix of illustrations, notes and writing.
“I’m not great at opening up about my feelings or my mental health to people that I am close to. There is also this fear of being judged or being a burden on someone. My journals however provide a blank and non-judgemental space for me to write and draw and have conversations with myself, sort out my feelings, or just make observations about the world around me,” she says, adding that at the same time, she has also learned a lot through the process. “I tend to be very judgemental about my own work and thoughts. But the more I draw every day, the more I learn to loosen up and let myself work as I want to – this always results in the best work, maybe not in terms of aesthetics but definitely in terms of content. So, every page helps me become better just a little bit,” she says. And D’Souza has also been making it a point to document important moments for her during this lockdown period in the country. “While I usually draw fantastical illustrations and things I imagine, I have now started to record my day-to-day. My family sitting around the table, my dogs running around the house. Fun times and sad times are all things I want to remember and record,” she says.

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